Students and Educators might as well live on different planets when it comes to social media, blogs, and other Web 2.0 technologies. The educators are making fear based decisions because the new technologies are unfamiliar to them. The students are too busy figuring out how it all works to bother paying attention to the restrictions the educators are putting in place. Fear and hope in sharp contrast.
This disconnect was starkly drawn at the Association of Educational Publishers (AEP) annual summit in DC last week. A meeting ran long and I arrived at the sessions a few minutes late. I intended to lurk in the doorway of a couple of different presentations to see where I wanted to spend the next hour. What I observed sent my head spinning.
In one room a panel of distinguished educators was discussing the challenges of bringing in new technologies. Their discussion centered on what the lawyers would let them do and the endless committee structures they had set up to screen what was permissible with blogs and other social media. Short answer – not much.
Next door the Weekly Reader was presenting their in-depth research on what kids are doing with technology these days. This is wonderful longitudinal research that they make available to anyone who is interested. Bottom line – the kids have completely embraced the new tools.
There are potential dangers with the new tools – but that is the case with any tool new or old. What matters is the character of those who wield the tool. Plagiarism is much easier with the web – but it isn’t a new behavior. Over time tools like turnitin.com have arisen to help address the problem in new and powerful ways. The net result is that it is easier to plagiarize and it is easier to catch someone doing it. The real challenge is the same as it has always been – teaching kids that it is wrong.
The saddest part of this disconnect from my perspective is that schools today are struggling to be relevant. Every time they resist the new tools the more they are teaching the kids to ignore the formal system.